The FENCER /l’ESCRIMEUR by Ayala R

thefencer_cover_small

The fencer L’escrimeur by Ayala R

US fiction

Source – review copy

I was caught by the description of this book and by the writers bio ,when I was sent email about the book ,plus must admit always been beguiled by Fencing as a sport .Ayala R Finished studying at Stanford in the US ,then moved to the Europe he has lived in six different countries and speaks four languages .He was a competitive fencer and a tango Argentina dancer ,he currently lives in Vienna .

Every time Francis put on his mask ,it stopped being a sport to him and turned into something real :as real as it had been at the time when people used to demand satisfaction after witnessing their honour and pride compromised and thus blood needed to flow in order for offence to be washed away .

From the first match of the championship .

The fencer follows the story of Francis A man at the top of his sport fencing .He is competing in the world championship as the book opens the book unfolds on three levels the first is a progression through the rounds of the championship describing each match how Francis manage to win the moves used and opponent ,the second strand we meet Francis the man outside fencing in the present he is a man who has everything in some ways has nothing .We discover how he got to this point in his life in the third strand of narrative and that is the one of him and his brother growing up an overbearing father the sort that wants his child to be the best at the sport and thwarts his other dreams along the way as he loves playing the piano and would have loved to be a pianist .Add to this Francis has a brother whom like his self fell under his fathers huge desire for a champion in fencing and the honour that would come with that but unlike Francis his brother Germain stayed with the father not like Francis that broke loose but maybe as we see in the present maybe to long .

Francis and his brother had just been children when their father had decided that they were to learn the discipline of fencing .That was also the time when he had a fencing hall built inside the mansion because ,for him ,no fencing club in the region was good enough for his own flesh and blood .

How his journey began along side his brother as his fathers search for them to win “the big one”

I loved the novel Between clay and dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi a novel about wrestling but also tackles similar ground to this book about the struggle to get ahead in a sport but also the fallout from such achievements can bring to the people like Francis involved in the sport .We also encounter father son relationships and sibling relationships ,what we do to make our fathers proud ,but what happens when we feel we fall short of the high bar some fathers can but on their sons .We see also the love and rivalry between  brothers which can ultimately drive one to the edge .Then there is the man himself there is often a feel to excel in one area of life or as a person can lead to a loss in another area of a person’s life and Francis is a perfect example of this .Ayala as a former fencer himself he captures the matches through the book so well you feel the adrenalin rush of each round ,the skill ,moves ,tactics and what it feels like to win a fencing match .It made me want to put on a fencing mask and have a go .All set along the background of the cities of Europe .The book has it’s own website here 

Do you have a favourite sport linked book ?

The Midnight swimmer by Edward Wilson

the midnight swimmer

The midnight swimmer by Edward Wilson

American fiction

Source review copy

Edward Wilson own life reads rather like a novel when you read his bio ,he has served in Vietnam with special forces got a bronze star and ,when he left the army he decide not to return to the us but settled here in the UK and since has been a teacher in Suffolk .He has written a number of other novels .

Catesby hated his office in the bowels of the Olympic Stadium ,Berlin .There were no windows and no – gemutlichkeit .It was the German word for “cosines “,but the full sense of glowing warmth conveyed by the expression was untranslatable .It was funny ,though Catesby ,that the germans ,who valued Gemutlichkeit so highly , constructed buildings that completely destroyed it .

I choose this passage  as it mention words and translation !

Well I was a bit nervous as this is the third in the series of novels ,but it did work as a novel in itself .The book features Catesby ,he is a spy but not in the Bond mode ,no for me he fell between Smiley and Harry Palmer a rough diamond a working class lad that has grafted his way to the top ,but is no man’s fool ,Any way this is the start of the sixties, a world where lady chatterlys lover trial  is happening ,Profumo is unmasked  here in the UK .In america JFK and his beautiful wife have come to the white house ,Vietnam is brewing in the background and of course the is Fidel Castro in the background .Anyway Catesby is set on a mission that could stop the cold war falling further down the rabbit-hole into total chaos .This sees him go from Washington to Cuba .He has to meet a Russian who may have something to tell him  ,along the way he meets the Russian’s beautiful wife .He has a message to go from east to west .All this is happening in October 63 just before the events that shock the world in November 1963 .

Dallas . 22 November 1963 

They wanted to blame it on Havana .That’s why the fall guy .Lee Harvey Oswald , was told to become a member of the fair play for Cuba committee and to make a big show of handing out Pro-Castro leaflets .The truth was otherwise .The gang still wanted Cuba back and that was one of the reasons Kennedy had to die .

An interesting after word near the end of the book .

Now I don’t read many thrillers so being offered this book was a chance to go back to my past growing up we had a lot of thrillers in the house my father is a huge thriller read and I did read a lot in my late teens ,the ones I tend to remember had like this an enigmatic outsider at the heart of the story .Catesby is an outsider a man who has outgrown his working class roots ,but has it seems never felt totally comfortable in the world that surrounds him .I always felt he was a bit more sympathetic to the Russians than other character I have read like Smiley or Harry palmer .In fact at times I was reminded of the admiration Jack Ryan had in the hunt for reed October for the Russian he was trying to find . The world Catesby lives in is one that as history has shown if one wrong move had happened at this time the world we live in would be very different . So if you like fast paced intelligent thriller this is one for you .

Have you a favourite character from thrillers ?

Libra by Don Delillo JFK 50TH

libra_first_ed

Libra by Don Delillo 

US fiction 

Source – personnel copy 

Well today is the 50th anniversary of the shooting of JFK and I have chosen two books to remember or mark the occasion this is the first that I did read a year or so after it came out in 1988 the year of the 25th anniversary.Don Delillo is probably alongside Paul Auster my favourite American writer. I have read most of his books and even read his huge Underworld twice I loved it so much ,If you fancy try that book Jackie and a few others have done a read-along that starts in two weeks .Don Delillo grew up in an Italian part of the Bronx , New York .He has written more 15 novels . 

Earlier that day a young man walked into the outer office at Guy Banister associates in New Orleans .Delphine Roberts was at her desk typing a revised list of civil rights organizations for Banisters files .The young man stood patiently waiting in jeans with rolled cuffs two days stubble on his chin .

Oswald in Guy Banisters office where he also meet David Ferrie both big character in the film JFK . 

Well Libra is a fiction account of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald the man who shot JFK .from his early life ,joining the marines ,his journey to Russia to become a defector  where he met and married  his Russian wife Marina and then his return to the US with his wife  .Then he settled in Dallas after spending time in New Orleans working for the Free Cuban Movement and pro Castro causes .He finally start working at the book depository in Dallas where he Shot JFK from .Now he comes across as a strange man , almost outcast ,a man who  is never really part of anything a man who has communist leanings ,but he  can also be  easily be swayed by others it seems .The book has a similar feel to the film JFK by Oliver stone that did actually come out a few years after the book ,but isn’t based on the book and actually the book is far more in-depth and connects the dots a lot more in regards to Oswald’s life .

Well it is fifty years to the day ,since the events in this book The death of JFK at the hands of Oswald .So reading this book brought the events of that day and what lead to the assianation ,things like the Cuban crisis ,JFK personnel views .On the other side is Oswald this guys life is strange to say the least a man who was not once but twice a traitor ,the first time is his decision to escape the Us and to become a Soviet citizen ,where he is suspected of giving away secrets to the U2 spy plane .But even after doing this he returns to US and has no real action taken against him and has his wife allowed to be with him .He even appears of TV as a communist .I still wonder who he was Delillo has lifted the lid on his life a bit more in this novel but Oswald is still one strange man and his history just in my mind seems very strange .The book is of course a novel so what is real and what is made by Delillo mix but we get a real feel of the man and the times he lived in .Also a look at what drove this man who shot the president ,almost like he is destined to do this one thing as he gets more and more desperate .

Have you read Delillo ?

What are your thoughts on JFK and the Assassination ? 

A naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Naked_Singularity-398x600

A Naked singularity by Sergio De La Pava

US fiction

Source – review Copy

A Naked singularity  definition

A singularity is, roughly speaking, a region of extremely high density into which matter or light is attracted. While Steven Hawking Eric Weisstein’s World of Biography has proposed that physical singularities can occur only inside Black holes where they cannot be seen, physicists Kip Thorne and John Preskill believe observable (“naked”) singularity can exist

Source Wolfram 

Sergio De La Pava

Is a New york based Public defender ,he had spent nearly a decade writing this book and then five years and numerous rejections from publishers lead to him getting  a self publishing deal ,then the book grew slowly as word of mouth til first Us publisher Chicago university press last year and now Maclehose press have given the book a full publishing deal .The book arrived wrapped and with a letter from Mr  Maclehose telling  me ,how important they felt this book is ,this started me worrying ,was I worthy to review this book  ,but I was chosen so must have been .

“Fine ,if you define proof stringently enough ,I suppose I can’t really prove that unicorns don’t exist ,yet I perfectly reasonable in not believing in them .But all that is beside the point as it relates to our rat friend .Because whether god exists or not ,there is still such a thing as justice .Justice exists ,and this rat is getting what it deserves under its mandates .This rat is evil .

I loved this passage summed up a lot .

The book itself follows the life of one man Casi he is a public defender in New York rather like the writer himself .Casi is 24 ,his caseload as a public defender is mainly immigrants ,their case give him much sorrow ,but he has also won all his cases .He is a sensitive soul ,but is slowly losing faith with the system ,The book like the definition is heading to a point a situation  where his perfect life may take a twist ,where Casi and Dane  his friend  try to work out how to talk about the perfect crime and how to do it .Then we also see his home life the neighbours including one that endlessly watches the Honeymooners just restarting every time he reaches the end of the show as he feels all life is in this one show  . Which leads to numerous discussions about the characters in the show particularly Ralph the main character played by Jackie Gleason .Here is a clip of that show for those unfamiliar with it  which I was but loved watch a couple of episodes .

Then we also hear Casi  talk about philosophers and life in general like many 24 year olds do what is life ? What does it mean ? then there is  also Boxing and boxers particularly the Peurto Rican boxer Wilfred Benitez.I ve upload a link to one of his most famous bouts with Sugar ray Leonard .

There is also a collection of different styles of writing ,court records ,letters ,poems ,recipes in fact loads of content .

David hume was his favourite Alyona once said .This was during one of our first real conversations ,at the end of which I think we exchange keys to our respective apartments although I almost immediately misplaced his ,I said I guessed there was nothing wrong with Hume provided it was acknowledged that Descates was the man .At the end of the conversation I went home and made this list

1.Descartes

2.Kant

3.Wittgenstein

4.Kripke

5.Lewis

6.Hume

Casi’s favourite Philosophers fromstart of chapter 22

So as you see this book is complex ,this is the modem New York ,not the one I know from watching Woody all or early Spike Lee films .This city is huge and its hard to pindown So Sergio hasn’t he has tried to show ones man journey through it as completely as he can .There is a number of ways of writing huge books Epic sagas ,Catching a moment and expanding it out .Pava has chosen to use one mans life and use it .Sergio is the anti creative writing writer for me ,because this book does everything your told not to do ,not make your book to long ,don’t mix style and keep to a simple story arc .No this book  is long, it mixes styles in a mix tape way he uses the best of what he has ,what he knows you feel with a lot of the legal based documentation is very close to real life ,Given his job is also a public defender (one of the things I feel after reading this is a greater insight into the New York Justice system ).Digression is something that he does superbly and realistically ,I for one am a person that can easily go from point A  to point K then back to point A .So to the rub what is the book like as a whole well I tried to think of other books yes there maybe is something of Deillo’s underworld in the scope and Of course I have seen numerous mentions in review of Infinite  Jest but having not got far in that book I can’t say .I fell the book is neared the new US TV shows like breaking the bad ,The Wire and The Sopranos .I could see a show with Casi as the leader character ,but the only think they would have to dumb it down because this is more complex than any of those series and is maybe what America has been trying to grasp for a while the current Great American Novel (I always view this not a one book more as a collection of books that catch the current Zeitrgeist ,which this does ) America is now a mixing pot of people and De La Pava has caught this wonderfully .

The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim

hundred brothers

The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim

US Fiction

Source – review Copy

Donald Antrim is a name that I’ve had on the very edge of my radar to read ,for a number of years .He is often mentioned as a post modernist writer,as I have really enjoyed the other writers from the post modernist Cannon I have read and am always keen to try new ones .I felt I would like  Antrim’s work .So when these two new reissues from Granta dropped through my door I was happy to finally get the chance to saviour his work and that is what I did saviour him .Donald Antrim is an American writer who lives in New York ,he published his first novel in 1993 this the hundred brothers was his second book .He contributes to the New Yorker and lives in New York.He was on the twenty best writers under forty list published in the New Yorker in 1999 a list that included people such as Saunders ,Foster Wallace,Diaz and Lahiri  to name a few  .

My brothers Rob ,Bob ,Tom,Paul ,Ralph ,Phil,Noah ,William,Nick,Dennis,Christopher,Frank ,Simon,Saul ,Jim,Henry…………………..(so on ) all born on the same day,the twenty-third of May ,though at different hours in separate years .

The strange brothers gather together .

So to the book The Hundred brothers is a story of a meeting of Hundred brothers ,well actually ninety-nine as one can’t make it .They have come together for annual meeting of the brothers  and to have a meal and do a yearly ritual .Doug is our guide to this hectic group of brothers  he seems one of the saner brothers .We get told via Doug who is who ,the blind brother ,,the depressed brother ,the recovering addict ,botanist and so on .This is a strange bunch ,as the night progress chaos and madness start to descend on them .The brothers almost represent a cross-section of america .We also see what happens when people are overshadowed by a domineering father ,The brothers all seem to have a bit of something missing that thing that controls people in everyday life have ,how will this night end will the be 99 brothers ?Whose is the dog that keeps running through the room ? how many Doug’s have there been ?

Other brothers converged in a circle ringing the fighters .No one butting in ,yet ;experience has proved that it is best to let physical disputes resolve themselves on the spot ,rather than interrupt and create additional frustrations and the lasting grudges that accompany smoldering tensions – unless the peril of injury .

A fight breaks out between the a pair of brothers .

 

The hundred brothers is one of those books it is hard to pigeon-hole ,like most of the other post modern books I ve read it seems to transcend usual fiction genres .After reading it I was struck by the brilliance of Antrim he writes novels that feel like Barthelme short  stories  that have been given a course of steroids to pump them up too a novel  .I felt this book would make a great episode of the Simpsons it has a mix of wit and darkness they capture so well sometimes .It did in fact  remind me a bit of the episode where Homer was given a magic hammock that meant he could clone himself and he did ending up with endless slight copies of himself .Which bring total chaos to Springfield when the pack of Homers gets on the loose in Springfield ,rather like the brothers on the lose in the big hall .The other thing I was reminded of is the film by Luis Bunuel the exterminating angel where a dinner party descends into chaos as the guest are trapped in a room .There is a great intro by Jonathan Frantzen where he picks out the wonderful line “I love my brothers and I hate their guts “.Very apt we can’t choose are families can we ?

Have you read his books ?

Previous Older Entries

June 2015
M T W T F S S
« May    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,470 other followers

%d bloggers like this: